According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, psychiatry’s holy writ, a fugue state entails “sudden, unexpected travel away from home or one’s customary place of work, with inability to recall one’s past.” Lee Thuna’s Fugue renders that condition somewhat attractive. Not only does it afford the protagonist, Mary (Deirdre O’Connell), respite for her tragic history, but if a theatergoer were suddenly to suffer a fugue state, she’d have no choice but to flee the Cherry Lane and forget all about this well-intentioned but rather ridiculous play.
The opening finds Mary in a Chicago hospital with bleeding feet and no memory of who she is or how she got there. A psychiatrist (Rick Stear), freighted with his own trauma, helps Mary reclaim her past. Thuna and director Judith Ivey clearly mean to explore weighty issues of identity, memory, and grief, but such matters receive trite and stilted treatment. So, too, the play’s many mysteries: Will Mary recover her memory? Will patient and doctor heal each other? Will lesbianism inadvertently kill? Each receives an affirmative answer.
Thuna does deserve credit for crafting an engaging time-travel structure and Ivey for allowing O’Connell to generate another in a long line of indelible performances. Even when the script demands the absurd or the clichéd, O’Connell renders the words plausible and fresh; she seems incapable of striking an insincere note. Danielle Skraastad also impresses as Mary’s patrician ladylove. Those performances aside, this play about amnesia is most forgettable.